In 1968, Bob Kalsu was the Buffalo Bills’ rookie of the year. The next year he was an artillery officer in Vietnam. As this Sports Illustratedprofile recounts:
Word had gotten around the firebase that he had played for the Bills, but he would shrug off any mention of it. “Yeah, I play football,” he would say. What he talked about – incessantly – was his young family back home.
For almost 30 years, Bob Jr. felt partially responsible for his father’s death. As the story went, Bob Kalsu was killed while running out to meet a helicopter that might be bringing the news of his son’s impending birth.
Who’s the most brilliant scientist to have immigrated to America?
Is that your final answer?
Did you consider the inventor of washable crayons?
Colin Snedeker came to the United States as a youth. After inventing a non-staining shoe polish, he went to work for the maker of Crayola Crayons. As his obituary in the Wichita Eagle tells it:
[H]e had run out of ideas as to what to make next… He went into the company’s complaint department, where they had all kinds of mail from people complaining about what was wrong.
Thus inspiration struck.
“He had that kind of mind that could just figure things out,” his sister said. Snedeker is just one of the brilliant minds America has been blessed with from abroad: since 2000, 40% of Americans who won Nobel Prizes in chemistry, medicine, and physics have been immigrants.
Mr. Snedeker may not have been a Nobel Prize winner. He is, however, (yet) another immigrant who has improved our lives.
“Books transmit values. They explore our common humanity. What is the message when some children are not represented in these books?” – Walter Dean Myers
Pura Belpré was the first Puerto Rican public librarian in New York City.
As this NPR tribute recounts, “Belpré could not find any books in Spanish – so she wrote them herself.”
Belpré travelled all over the city, from the Bronx to the Lower East Side, telling stories with puppets in Spanish and English. Nobody was doing that back then.
Today there is an award in her name, given each year by the American Library Association, to honor a Latino author.
The chances of winning this prize are, alas, not as slim as they should be: “the proportion of books for kids by Latino authors is so “shockingly low” that “it’s insane,” says the award official.
The problem is even larger. “Children’s and young adult literature… represent a stubbornly white world even as U.S. children are increasingly people of color,” Amy Rothchild concludes in FiveThirtyEight.
“For many children Roald Dahl is synonymous with reading.”
Fighter ace, surgical device inventor, and FDR’s drinking buddy. And then there’s his services to literature, and literacy.
For Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday, the Oxford English Dictionary added several of his words – that’s how we’ve come to think of them – to their volumes.
He is rightfully known for his inventiveness with English. But as the Independent noted in Dahl’s obituary a quarter-century ago, “The quality of his writing is easily discernible by the fluency with which it can be read aloud.”
See for yourself by reading the passage below out loud. A lesser writer would have crammed it with detail or been oblivious to its rhythm: